READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 19th…

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EPA Proposes Increase in Renewable Fuel Levels

The Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal Wednesday to increase renewable fuel volume requirements across all types of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. While agriculture and farm groups applaud the increase, industry groups say the increase is not enough. The proposal would increase total renewable fuel volumes by nearly 700 million gallons between 2016 and 2017. The conventional biofuel amount of 14.8 billion gallons is an increase from 14.5 billion gallons in 2016. The EPA says the increase will achieve 99 percent of the Congressional target of 15 billion gallons. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor argues the ethanol industry is “fully capable” of meeting the 15 billion gallon target set by Congress. For biodiesel, the EPA proposal would establish a 2.1 billion gallon Biomass-based Diesel requirement in 2018, up from the 2.0 billion gallon requirement for 2017. However Ann Steckel of the National Biodiesel Board says the industry has “plenty of feedstock and production capacity to exceed 2.5 billion gallons today, and can certainly do so in 2018.” The EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days.

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Oil Industry Group Calls on EPA to Protect Consumers

Following the proposal to increase biofuel mandates by the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Petroleum Institute called on the EPA to protect consumers from fuels unsafe for their vehicles. A spokesperson for API says “consumers’ interest should come ahead of ethanol interests,” adding “EPA is pushing consumers to use high ethanol blends they don’t want.” API claims higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, are not compatible with most cars on the road today and can damage engines and fuel systems. The Institute wants the EPA to set the final ethanol mandate at no more than 9.7 percent of gasoline. Further, API says the EPA proposal shows the only solution is for Congress to repeal or significantly reform the Renewable Fuel Standard.

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Weaker Farm Economy Could Squeeze Agriculture Lenders

Leading agriculture lenders could feel the squeeze of a weaker farm economy thanks to heavy portfolios in farmland. Fitch Ratings said this week in a report that farm lenders may see some assets deteriorate, but the relative strength of the Farm Credit System and a less volatile interest rate should ease the impact. Fitch does not expect the weaker farm economy to affect the ratings of the Farm Credit System or the individual banks in the system, according to Reuters. Fitch expects smaller banks with agricultural loan portfolios larger than five percent will begin increasing their loan provisioning in the coming months to help manage the agricultural slowdown, just as banks with larger exposure to the energy sector have done. Fitch also expects agricultural banks and lenders’ loan portfolios to grow in the near to medium term, as farmers scramble to stay afloat.

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Monsanto to Suspend Future Soybean Technologies in Argentina

Monsanto announced this week the company will suspend launching future soybean technologies in Argentina, as Monsanto has been unable to find any common ground with the Argentine government regarding inspections of genetically modified soybeans. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today reports that Monsanto is taking steps to “protect its current assets,” according to company officials. Monsanto had previously asked Argentine exporters to inspect bean shipments to make sure farmers are paying royalties for use of its seed. Argentina responded with a decree that said the government must first approve any such inspections.

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Syngenta Offer Deadline Extended

Syngenta shareholders have more time to mull over the $43 billion takeover bid from state-owned ChemChina, allowing time for outstanding regulatory approvals. The deadline to accept the bid was extended this week, as Syngenta says the offer will now run from May 24th to July 18th. A Syngenta spokesperson told Reuters “we don’t have all the regulatory approvals yet,” adding the company still expects the deal to close by the end of the year. ChemChina has previously said that the offer period, which initially would have expired on May 23rd, could be renewed several times, if needed. Earlier this week, USDA was reportedly allowed to join a review of the deal by the U.S. Treasury Department. U.S. lawmakers requested USDA be part of the review to better assess the impact of the transaction on domestic food security.

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USDA Announces Bioeconomy Research and Development Funding

USDA Wednesday announced $21 million in funding to support the development of regional systems in sustainable bioenergy and biobased products. The funding also seeks education and training for the next generation of scientists that will expand the availability of renewable, sustainable goods and energy, according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Secretary says the investment by USDA “will have a direct impact on local economies.” The funding is available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. For fiscal year 2016, USDA is soliciting applications that focus on Regional Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects. Those projects support the production and delivery of sustainable biomass feedstocks for bioenergy and bioproducts. The funding will also focus on educating students, faculty, and a workforce for opportunities within the bioeconomy.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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